Two Lincoln County runners added gold medals to their schools’ trophy cases after the 2A state track and field championships at North Carolina A&T University a week ago.
East Lincoln senior Marcus “Bubba” McDowell, a three-sport standout with the Mustangs, and North Lincoln sophomore Allie Castro both won individual events at the meet. McDowell took gold in the 400-meter dash with a time of 48.72 seconds and Castro won the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:18.62.
McDowell ran track all four years of his high school career, and, after placing in the top three runners in the 400-meter dash at the state meet last year, set a goal for himself to win gold at this year’s meet.
“I feel like it was my year to win states because I came so far and worked so hard all four years to get there,” he said. “I didn’t really think I was going to get there, but I tried to push myself and I ended up getting to a spot where I could achieve my goal.”
East Lincoln track coach Alonzo Custer said McDowell was a strong leader for the Mustangs.
“He’s absolutely the leader of the team,” he said. “He’s not vocal, he doesn’t necessarily say anything to anyone, but he outworks everyone, and he’s humble doing it. It was great for my freshman class, which is going to be very good, to have him as a mentor. If you want to be good, watch what he does, and how he carries himself on and off the field. What he did this year was good for our school now, but it’s going to benefit our school for years to come.”
Whether its head football coach Mike Byus, head basketball coach Neal Hodges or Custer, McDowell’s coaches always describe his superior work ethic and personality.
“Tnext person that says something negative about Marcus McDowell will be the first person,” Custer said. “He tries at everything, and he gives it his best shot. You can’t say that about a lot of people. It’s neat to see how hard he works, regardless of the outcome. You know he went hard at it.”
Castro has been running in track events since her childhood with her father, Jerry Castro, a North Lincoln track and field coach and a former track runner at Kent State.
“It’s really been a dream to coach one of my kids,” Jerry Castro said. “I always knew I’d love to coach my kids, and she may be the only one that runs. We’ve never focused on the success part of it. We really started just running and training consistently. If you can train consistently you’ll see progression and then things will happen.”
After winning a gold medal at the state championship level during her sophomore season, Allie Castro is expected to be a strong leader on North Lincoln’s teams for the next two years.
“We have a big group of eighth graders coming up next year, so we’re very excited about that,” Jerry Castro said, “and we have some really good sophomores that will be juniors next year, who the younger kids can learn from.”
That Lincoln County produced two gold medalists at the state meet isn’t all that surprising, given the success of the county’s programs recently. The North Lincoln boys cross-country team took the gold medal as a team at the state championships in 2011.
“Lincoln County might be the strongest county in the state as far as track and cross-country,” Jerry Castro said. “We compete against each other, and it gets contagious. We’ll go to a meet against East Lincoln and Lincolnton and we’ll have as good of competition as we have at the regional meet.”